Monday, March 14, 2011

What to do?

Everyday is a tough day for somebody. I hear the news, personal and local and from far away and know there's always something tough going on somewhere.

But some days it just feels like there is a lot of that toughness coming down, like a bad winter or a hot summer or a rainy spring. I can just feel it like I imagine some animals can feel the approach of a weather front, though it may be miles away.

But what to do? Grab a shovel and hop on a plane? Sit with my head down and worry? I know today that neither of those impulses are correct, but sometimes I struggle to find the motivation to do anything at all.

I once saw a quote of Ghandi's posted at eye level on a colleagues' desk that read something to the effect of "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

And in the way of the best advice, those words startled me and puzzled me and stuck to me persistently. Those words came back to me again and again whenever I felt like putting down a dull task, or letting my feelings delay a necessary task. Those words dogged me and made me uncomfortable when I was already uncomfortable.

It's been at least ten years since I read those words, and that colleague has probably moved to a new job, just as I have. But now I find them a great comfort. When I feel helpless, like there's nothing I can do to help a situation far beyond my control. When I wish I could be there, or could have been there, and feel like chucking whatever insignificant task I'm working on, those words keep me steady and on track.

And so today I'm trying to remind myself that the small actions and decisions of people who had ordinary responsibilities in ordinary jobs just a week ago had impacts they could never have foreseen. That the small, seemingly insignificant tasks or routines that they had done countless times before would ensure that a valve worked, or a sensor was functioning or a monitor would shut some itself down automatically if the earth shook.

So today I'm trying to focus on the small tasks that I've been given, however small and unimportant they may seem. And today I'll try to keep my mind on the little wheels and cogs that would only matter if they stopped. Today I'll be responsible. I guess it's time for me to get back to work.

Hope you have a good day.

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